In Kozisek v. County of Seward, an employee was arrested for making terroristic threats to his wife and for killing and wounding his family's farm animals with a firearm while intoxicated. After a psychological and substance abuse evaluation, a mental health practitioner recommended that the employee complete inpatient alcohol treatment prior to returning to work. The employee refused, and instead offered to undergo outpatient treatment as recommended by another counselor. This left the employer in an unenviable position: either allow the employee to elect outpatient treatment and return to work, or insist on inpatient treatment. The employer chose the latter course, and when the employee refused the inpatient treatment, the employer terminated the employee.
The employee filed a lawsuit, and among other things, claimed that the employer "regarded him as" as an alcoholic under the ADA. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, and determined that the employer did not "regard" the employee as disabled because its decision was legitimately based on the recommendation of a licensed mental health professional. This case illustrates the importance of obtaining and relying upon medical opinions when faced with difficult return to work situations, as a medical opinion may provide a credible defense to a claim of disability discrimination.